Breckenridge first responders hold a remembrance ceremony for 9/11 |

Breckenridge first responders hold a remembrance ceremony for 9/11

Event serves as a reminder for the work they do and why it’s important

The ceremony was brief, but its significance was tangible. On Saturday, Sept. 11, the Breckenridge Police Department and the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District held its annual remembrance ceremony on the Blue River Plaza where about 25 first responders and around 15 community members gathered to honor the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Service members lined up and saluted as three officials raised a flag at half-staff. Afterward, the Rev. Calob Rundell gave a small speech.

“For those that are a part of the first responder community, this day carries additional emotional weight as we remember those firefighters, law enforcement officers, medical personnel and rescue workers who perished in the line of duty making the ultimate and highest sacrifice,” he said.

In his speech, Rundell referenced all those that were impacted 20 years ago and noted that the effects of the tragedy are still felt today.

“Across America, today is a day to remember: To remember those who raced towards danger in an effort to save others; to remember families that still grieve this day; and a day to remember those who still bear the scars of the attack on Sept. 11, 2001.”

Rundell’s speech was followed by a moment of silence. Once concluded, Drew Hoehn, deputy chief of operations for Red, White & Blue, asked service members to gather closely around him for a secondary, more private ceremony. During this time, Hoehn told them that they’re expected to make sacrifices.

Since 2001, the Breckenridge Police Department and Red, White & Blue have hosted a brief annual remembrance ceremony to honor lives lost. This year, in light of the tragedy’s 20th anniversary, Hoehn said he asked his service members to make a small, but impactful, change.

“Every year we come over in our dress uniforms and I called the troops this morning and I said, ‘Put your bunker gear on,’” Hoehn said. “The reason was, as I explained to them, we’ve got to remind ourselves that on the worst day of this job, you’re going to have to make that sacrifice. Folks with families on 9/11, they left children, wives and they left husbands. That’s what the public’s expectation of us is on the very worst day. I just want to remind our folks that we will risk a lot to save a lot.”

Hoehn was four years into his career in firefighting and was working outside St. Louis when the events of 9/11 unraveled. Hoehn said he was just beginning a 24-hour shift, most of which was spent watching what was happening in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon in Virginia.

That day, Hoehn said he and other firefighters tended to community members who interacted with the station trying to make sense of the tragedy unfolding miles away.

“Our firehouses became the mourning places and our profession became the focal point and it was confusing,” he said. “A couple days later, Kirkwood, (Missouri), decided to do a parade and they invited every firefighter from the county. We went over there in our dress blues and marched in this parade, and people were just crying along the side of the road. It was just confusing for us because it was so far removed but we were the outlet for people.”

Breckenridge Police Department patrol sergeant Esteban Ortega, who isn’t originally from the United States, said even he remembers that day clearly. At the time, Ortega was a 24-year-old college student living in Mexico.

“I was driving to my grandma’s house and the radio started going and I remember pulling over and (asked), ‘What is going on?’” he said.

Ortega said watching the events of 9/11 made him want to contribute and help a community in the same way personnel responded to the emergency that day.

“Even though (Mexico is) a different country, we’re close,” he said. “We felt the pain. At least for me, watching the news and seeing all the firefighters and the police officers helping other people, it motivated me to do this job. It was one of the things that made me say, ‘I want to do that.’”

Hoehn said it was important to him to reinforce what happened on 9/11 to other service members, especially younger members who might not vividly remember the day.

“Every year, we have to reinforce, we have to pass the torch and that’s what it means to me, for this younger generation to know that even when I’m retired and gone or some of our tenured folks, it’s still their responsibility to conduct this remembrance every year.”

Ortega said for first responders like him who weren’t serving yet, the event is an important reminder of the work they do and why they do it. Rundell called this out in his speech, too.

“Those of you who have committed to the calling of emergency service have chosen a noble profession,” Rundell said. “To be the ones that race towards hazard, to be the ones trusted to respond, to be the ones that have chosen the selfless path to be where you place yourself in harm’s way for the safety of others.”

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